Mid-career. Successful. Good marriage. Comfy, modern-world society. Obvious next step?
A few days ago, my dear friend Steve entered heaven to be with the other gone-ahead saints. I am grieving. Steve is without pain, sadness, sin, death. He is realizing victory, at last. This is true. I miss him still.
Let me tell you about this man who began dying to himself long before being diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer only 14 months ago. Steve decided that despite being a successful corporate manager living in Aberdeen, Scotland, his life was better served amongst the dust, poverty and violence of another land. He and his wife Jane decided to follow a call to enter into full-time ministry – in Afghanistan, or wherever they could be used best. They walked away from what many of us have longed for – comfort, security and a home filled with friends, even a good church.
As it turned out, they were not to serve in Afghanistan. Instead, they were redirected to Cyprus to serve with SAT-7. This is where I met them. My first encounter with Steve was indicative of the heart of this giant of a man. I had just joined a meeting and was being inundated with new terms, lingo, and acronyms like IO, MCR, IOMC, IMT, etc. This big guy, who was hunched down into a less than sufficient conference chair, scooted gingerly over to me. He began to make notes so that I could see. He was connecting the dots in an information puzzle. He and Jane pulled Sarah and I aside and talked us through the realities of joining the team in Cyprus. From that point on, Steve never ceased to care that I was adapting well – that I was ok.
He had a sense of humor that was as quirky as he was tall. Yet, he somehow never ventured to make a comment that would disparage anyone. Very quickly, I realized that Steve was the real deal. He loved others as himself – more than himself. He had a knack of showing up and being useful. On many occasions, he would stop by just to show me some new technology that would be great for helping us all to communicate and serve one another better. Steve was quite clever, yet his heart was bigger than his brain.
Our family was having lunch with Steve and Jane the day before they found out how sick Steve really was, last July. He was not feeling well. He set that aside and patiently spent time with us. At the time he thought it was just diabetes that he needed to get under control. I assumed that I would have many more opportunities to spend time with Steve. He was one of the people in this life that produced in others joy, laughter and understanding simply by observing him. I wish that I had given him a big hug. I wish I would have known that I wouldn’t get to hang out with him again. I saw him one more time briefly in the office. I prayed that I would again see the gigantic (in heart, body and love), Jesus follower walk back in ready for more – healed and strong.
So, now Steve is healed. But, he is not here. I will miss him. He has gone ahead to the place we will call home forever. I look forward to the next time I have a chance to hug him and tell him thanks for showing us the way to follow Jesus – all the way to victory.
Please be praying for Jane. It’s been a long, difficult year and now she looks at life without the one God provided for her. She, too, is an example of one who knows Jesus. Yet, now she is experiencing the hurt of grief.